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Football fans watch a live broadcast of the World Cup between England and USA in London, England. (Leon Neal via Getty Images)

TGIF: Protest Edition

A week of opposition to the CCP, eating bugs, the University of California, railroad workers, Shopify, and euphoria. Plus: does Elon Musk already have the brain chip?

Welcome back to TGIF. Hold on to your Yeezys.

This week we ran a great essay from Luke Burgis on why human beings all seem to want the same things. If you’re confused about why everyone on your Zoom meetings lists their pronouns—or why everyone binged Tiger King at the same time—read it. Not since Tiananmen Square have there been such brazen protests against the CCP. Simon Leplâtre is on the ground in Shanghai witnessing it all and reporting on it for us. And on the podcast, Bari sat down with Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to talk about his political reincarnations, the future of Israel and—what else?—Trump’s dinner with Kanye.

And now, to the news you may have intentionally missed this week:

→ Trump, Milo, Kanye, Fuentes: A rough collection of names for a rough item. Last week, our former President beclowned himself by hosting Kanye West and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago for dinner. He claimed not to know who Fuentes was. 

Add to this sick brew one Milo Yiannopoulous. Once a firebrand gay conservative, Milo has rebranded as a Christian nationalist selling Christian paraphernalia. Now he’s running Kanye West’s 2024 presidential campaign and gleefully joining in with the antisemitism, claiming Trump will lose because he has been “continuing to suck the boots of Jewish powers that be who hate Jesus Christ, hate our country, and see us as disposable cattle according to their ‘holy’ book.” It’s subtle, sure, but if you read it closely you pick up on the antisemitism. 

On Thursday, Kanye West and Nick Fuentes went on Infowars. I think it’s worthwhile to see the rhetoric for yourself. You know things have gone off the rails when Alex Jones is the most sane person on a panel. 

 

→ I guess I’m stuck in this marriage now: Congress this week officially passed The Respect for Marriage Act, bringing federal protection to same-sex marriages. Twelve Republican Senators voted in favor of it, a remarkable culture shift in a short amount of time. Let’s all thank Clarence Thomas, since it was Thomas who nicely reminded Americans that gay marriage stood on flimsy legal grounds, just like Roe, in his concurring opinion in Dobbs. Gay bars should put Clarence Thomas portraits up. There should be a Clarence Thomas pride float. He’ll love it. 

The marriage decision coincides eerily with me feeling extremely straight married, i.e.: holding a screaming three-month old baby and saying no, I cooked, I won’t do the dishes. 

→ The U.S. economy is growing well: It grew 2.9% this past quarter, faster than expected. The Federal Reserve’s rate hikes impacted the housing market (I see a lot of places in my neighborhood sitting for months now on Zillow during my nightly Zill scrolls). But the rest of the economy is humming along. 

→ China’s obsession with Zero-Covid: Chinese authorities have taken a brutal stance on Covid: They have welded people into their own apartments and locked building exit doors. Last week, an apartment fire killed 10 in China’s Xinjiang province, and many say the dead were locked in their building and fire trucks were slowed by road blocks that were the result of the draconian Covid rules. The result has been unprecedented protests across the country. In Beijing, people chanted “no to Covid tests, yes to freedom.” Watch scenes here and here

Some on the American left were quick to defend the CCP. Being welded into your apartment, having all the exits locked in a fire, these are just the price of safety. One particularly wild example: When the Washington Post ran a news story about the CCP’s flawed Zero-Covid response, the paper’s most famous reporter, Taylor Lorenz, slammed her employer’s phrasing and defended the CCP. “Choosing not to kill off millions of vulnerable people (as the US is doing) isn’t a ‘critical flaw,’” Lorenz wrote. 

I do have good news for America’s Pandemic Forever advocates: You’ve won. Yes, a few people still go to the movies, and you can always tweet about how selfish and evil they are. But take a look at this chart . . .

→ Americans’ staggering loneliness: We were already spending more and more time alone each year. Then Covid hit, and our isolation grew much deeper. Our social lives haven’t bounced back.  

The Pandemic Forever community sees this chart and thinks: Still too many hours with other people. 

Speaking of the Washington Post . . . 

→ Jeff Bezos vs. Elon Musk: First, America’s richest men—Bezos and Musk—fought over who could be the more hardcore guy with rockets. Now they are fighting over who will control the public conversation. Musk obviously uses his Twitter feed, but Bezos is more subtle: He uses the Washington Post. 

Here is the Post’s Editorial Board on Nov 28: “Elon Musk is harming free expression on Twitter, not protecting it.” That very same day, another real piece in the Washington Post: “Elon Musk and the hardcore cult of Diet Coke.” The reporter cites Diet Coke’s “unsavory acolytes, including former president Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein.” Elon Musk likes Diet Coke, just like Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein. Coincidence? 

The Biden White House, which allows the CCP to mainline propaganda to America’s teens via TikTok, is also up in arms about Twitter. Asked about it, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre warned this week: "We’re all keeping a close eye on this.” On Stephen Colbert this week, one guest, a former CNN reporter, said of social media broadly: “Social media has . . . come in, and used free speech to stifle free speech.”

To be fair, sometimes, I use free speech to stifle free speech. Some may call it interrupting. I call it my human rights.  

→ Elon Musk, having it all: On Wednesday night, he unveiled a wireless brain chip that promises to make the blind see and give a person with a severed spinal cord “full-body functionality.” On Thursday he was in Nevada unveiling Tesla’s first heavy-duty Semi truck. Meanwhile, he’s doing truly remarkable trolling on Twitter, day in and day out.

→ Layoffs at CNN, hiring freeze at NPR: Chris Licht continues to clean house at CNN, cutting deeper into the network’s staff with more layoffs. NPR, meanwhile, has to cut at least $10 million in spending. Too bad they didn’t get that sweet Sam Bankman-Fried dough while it lasted.

→ Bob Iger returns to Disney: Disney movies have always taught values to kids (mostly that to be a hero, one of your parents has to be dead), so it’s silly to pretend the company only recently got political. But it does feel like they’ve spent more energy in the last year on culture war battles and duking it out with Gov. Ron DeSantis than on making good movies. “Strange World” and “Lightyear” were both flops. And so Disney’s old CEO is out. And returning to the helm is Bob Iger, pulled out of retirement. Chris Rufo, the conservative strategist and investigator, got his hands on Iger’s first town hall with Disney employees. “To the extent that I can work to kind of quiet things down, I’m going to do that,” Iger says.  

Good luck, Mr. Iger. And if all you manage to quiet is toddlers belting Moana in public it will have been enough. 

→ SBF media tour: Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced crypto mogul and Democratic mega-donor, continues his ill-advised press tour. He had a hour-plus long chat with Andrew Ross Sorkin (very much worth watching). He talked for a while with Jen Wieczner at New York magazine. He sat with Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos

The mainstream media stories about SBF continue to take him, more or less, at his word. He was in over his head, but his intentions were so good, is still the line. The only group who seems to see a scammer as a scammer is CoinDesk, the crypto-specific news site. “FTX’s collapse was a crime, not an accident,” writes columnist David Z. Morris with refreshing clarity. “Sam Bankman-Fried is a con man and fraudster of historic proportions.”

As readers know, I’m obsessed with the involvement of his two Stanford Law School professor parents, one of whom doesn’t believe in free will or personal responsibility. Anything new on them this week? Of course! Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Bankman-Fried about some of the company’s reported real estate buys in the Bahamas, including what sure looks like a vacation home for the young mogul’s parents. Here’s how Bankman-Fried responded:

“I don’t know the details of that house for my parents. I know it was not intended to be their long-term property. It was intended to be the company’s property. I don’t know how that was papered in, and I think that’s where it was and will end up. I think they may have stayed there while working with the company sometime over the last year.”

I don’t know how that was papered in. Same thing happens over here when I put overpriced dog treats on the company card and the bookkeeper asks about it.

→ Stop trying to make me eat insects: Every single week there is a story from the mainstream press trying to convince me that I need to eat insects. This is a Davos-set obsession. The World Economic Forum has published literally hundreds of pieces like “5 Reasons Why Eating Insects Could Reduce Climate Change.” Steak, chicken, fish are all special treats that are bad for the environment, you see. And like private jets, these should be reserved only for Davos attendees, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and Taylor Swift. For the good of the world, you and I should be eased into a bug-based diet. Last weekend’s installment comes from the Washington Post’s health section: “Salted ants. Ground crickets. Why you should try edible insects.” No. 

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